ASHEBORO — When players come together from numerous programs to form one team, there is usually a period in which these players have to get to know one another, to become familiar with one another and gel. That usually takes time.
Not when you’re talking about the Randolph County Post 45 American Legion program. Year after year, Post 45 plays a rigorous schedule and it usually hits the ground running.
This summer is no different.
Having three of the high school programs advancing deep into the high school state playoffs, not every Post 45 player was available until last week. But that hasn’t stopped the local squad from getting off to another successful start as Post 45 is 7-1 as it headed into a five-day break for graduations and senior trips late last week.
“We like our team,” veteran head coach Ronnie Pugh said. “There’s been a lot of crazy stuff between school events, three teams going deep into the playoffs. We just got some of those players this week. We’re still trying to feel things out and find positions and roles for players.”
Randleman High School advanced to the fourth round of the NCHSAA state playoffs while Eastern Randolph and Uwharrie Charter played for the West Regional championship. UCA won that series and then went on to win the state 1-A title.
Post 45 has won games in all manners thus far this season as they posted two one-run wins, defeating Chatham County 6-5 and Davidson County 6-5, while earning comfortable wins against Mooresville (16-1 and 10-2), Davidson County (16-2) and Fuquay (10-5).
Randolph County has also split with Rowan County, falling 3-2 in the first game on May 24 before recording a 10-5 win on June 5.
“Roster time is coming up quickly,” said Pugh, who must cut a 24-man roster to 18 by June 17 when the team opens Area III play. “We have some tough decisions to make and we need to make sure everyone who is going to be there is committed. You hate to have a few days off right now when you’re playing good.”
Post 45 has established a special aura with players. The success the team has earned over the past decades provides a certain expectation for players when putting on the jersey.
“We encourage them and challenge them to come out and compete against each other for positions,” Pugh said. “When it’s all said and done, we’re going to have people who can help the team. When you do that, the competition level increases for a lot of them. They were automatic for their high school teams and if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be out for Legion.
“We have several back from college and several who are going to college this year. If they set things up and demand things from the younger guys, it carries over year after year.”
It certainly has this year. Braylen Hayes, a Randleman High School graduate who plays at UNCG, is in his second season with Post 45. He is hitting .391 with 12 runs scored and 12 RBIs. Hayes is one of four players returning to Post 45 after a year in college. The others are Robert Garner (Wake Tech), Alex Martinez (Brunswick Community College) and Carson Whitehead (Brevard).
Adam Cole (preferred walk-on in football at ECU), Tanner Marsh (Liberty), Tyler Parks (UNC), Austin Lemons (UNCG) and Hunter Atkins (UNCG) are all headed to college to play in the fall. It’s the veterans who pass on the knowledge to the younger players about high-level baseball.
“It’s amazing how little coaches have to say because these guys take charge and point everyone in the right direction,” Pugh said. “All of these guys have played at a high level and the influence they have on the younger players like Drew Harman (Montgomery Central) and Braxton Walker (Randleman).
“The older guys won’t put up with a lack of effort. You can have different levels of talent, but everybody can hustle and put forth the effort right away.”
Marsh, an Asheboro High School graduate, is hitting .467 with 16 runs scored and eight RBIs. Cole, who will be leaving the team next week because of football obligations, is hitting .429 with eight runs scored. Parks is hitting .440 with 10 RBIs and Atkins, who is in his first year with Post 45, is hitting .391 with 12 runs scored. Post 45 is averaging 9.5 runs per game while allowing just 3.5.
“I think we have had a couple of surprises and hope those guys are going to contribute in a bigger way than we thought,” Pugh said of some players who have shown valuable versatility. “This will help their standing in terms of making the roster. We are really pleased with the attitude all have brought out this year.”
Post 45 began a stretch June 14 in which it is scheduled to play 11 games in 13 days. They were scheduled to host Mocksville Wednesday, travel to Campbell University, the site of this year’s state championship, to battle Wayne on Thursday and then head to Salisbury to meet Rowan County Friday night. On Saturday, Post 45 opens its league schedule against Greensboro at War Memorial Stadium. After a day off on Father’s Day, June 18, Post 45 will play seven games in seven days, including a non league doubleheader June 24 against Cleveland County and St. Mary’s out of Maryland.
To say the schedule is about to go full-tilt is an understatement.
“We’re about to find out if that 7-1 is true,” Pugh said.
For now, the home games are being played at Brookshire Field at RHS. McCrary Park is expected to open in late June after major renovations are completed.
“(RHS Athletic Director and baseball head coach) Jake (Smith) has a great facility,” Pugh said. “Jake and the whole Randleman baseball organization have been great. For having to move (home games), it couldn't have been much better and we really appreciate it.”
Schedule for June
Wednesday, June 14
Mooresville vs. Post 45 (at Randleman’s Brookshire Field)
Thursday, June 15
Post 45 vs. Wayne (at Campbell University)
Friday, June 16
Post 45 at Rowan County
Saturday, June 17
Greensboro at Post 45 (at Randleman’s Brookshire Field)
Monday, June 19
Post 45 at Greensboro
Tuesday, June 20
Davidson County at Post 45 (at Randleman’s Brookshire Field)
Wednesday, June 21
Post 45 at Foothills
Friday, June 22
Cleveland County vs. Martinsville (Va.), 5:30
Morgantown (W.Va.) at Post 45, 7:30
Saturday, June 23
Cleveland County vs. Post 45, 2
Cleveland County vs. St. Mary’s (Md.), 4:30
St. Mary’s (Md.) at Post 45, 7
Sunday, June 25
St. Mary’s (Md.) vs. Morgantown (W.Va.), 11
Martinsville (Va.) at Post 45, 1:30